‘La femme idéale’ : CRISTALLE by CHANEL (1974)




















As its name suggests, Cristalle is diamond-cut and delicate: a crisp, pretty, and very Parisian floral chypre of slightly cold-hearted mien that lends the perfume a distancing, enigmatic quality – at once a citrus-galbanum, sherbety hycanthine jasmine freshness (all the joys of spring), and yet a darker, more pensive tension lying beneath this crystalline veneer in the vetiver oakmoss base that lines the high heeled assertions with a more gossamer vein of depressive melancholy.




An eau de parfum, a clever retweaking by Jacques Polge to update and bring the (at the time) somewhat obscure Chanel scent more attention, was introduced in 1993 that overlayed the essential character of classical Cristalle with a fuller, revitalized, fruitier beginning (a more pronounced peach, ylang and mandarin note in particular), but this robust, sharper remake was also rather gorgeous, if a little shrill in comparison to the more demure and refined reach of the eau de toilette. Whichever you feel more affinity with, Cristalle always creates a pleasing impression whenever its pointed, yet ethereal, chic gravitates about a woman in a room.




I have always loved Cristalle. To me it is a very beautiful perfume that speaks , almost too self-seriously, in some ways, of rather received ideas on understatement and elegance, of femininity, and of taste – its sillage trailing behind you like a bright new morning of endless possibility (if you were born to the right class, that is): a cool, light-grey silk scarf from Galeries Lafayette, removed from its paper box: tied effortlessly, irreproachably.




Filed under Flowers

42 responses to “‘La femme idéale’ : CRISTALLE by CHANEL (1974)

  1. A truly glorious fragrance, although at times it feels icy enough to freeze the Seine. One of my favorites, a real masterpiece.

  2. Forgot to say, the extrait is beyond exquisite.

    • Is there one?!!!!!!!

      I was going to say, erroneously, actually, that the scent had never had an extrait made. I am gobsmacked!!


      • Yes, many years ago at the Rue Cambon boutique they had a limited edition of it and it was glorious, I only smelled it that once, but was not willing to part with the money for it. It was very rounded and quite full, so to speak. quite different from the ephemeral quality of the EdT. Never saw it in the states though, so I am not sure it ever went beyond a limited run. This is going back almost 15 or more years ago, so i am not sure what became of the venture.

      • For some reason, as I said, this feels like a strangely shocking revelation to me. Imagine how rare it must be now.

      • Rare if the people who were intrigued by it purchased it. It struck me as something that could stand on its own and not have to be considered a Cristalle strength. That is the tricky part with trying to work backwards in the scent laboratory, so to speak. I feel it is easier to take an extrait and work down to an EdT, but not as easy to work back from a cologne or EdT to a higher concentration. Imagine turning a Guerlain Eau into an EdP or extrait, where do you pull the notes from. It would be like having a coloratura soprano trying to perform the role of a bass. Too much lightness, not enough weight.

      • I agree. Which is why I couldn’t even imagine that it even existed! They never made one of Jardins De Bagatelle, either.

      • katherinec

        Really nice review to read, I also love how you describe it as not entirely coloured in.. I haven’t tried it though, will do so when I’m next passing the counter!

      • Not the edp for you, please.

    • I own a vintage edt and edp of Crystal and it is classy and exquisite. However, Brie put my feeling about it into words…there always seemed to be something missing from it. I never tried the extract, but I am supposing that something was missing from that as well.

  3. *actually I might have the time frame off a bit. My last trip back to France was in 2003, so it was around 10 years ago. So, since then not a peep more of Cristalle extrait.

  4. jtd0000

    Your timing is phenomenal, Ginza. We just came home yesterday after the six day stay in the hospital, where my husband had heart valve surgery. Cristalle edt was my choice for the hospitalization, and got me through some of the ‘deer in the headlights’ feelings I had. Its unearthly sensibility that makes me feel as if I am approaching and leaving simultaneously, lent me a bit of poise when I needed it and was a great help in negotiating the ICU and cardiothoracic units of a hospital.

    You wrote recently on selecting perfume for a hospitalization. The discussion it prompted, and your openness to consider how the topic came to have meaning for you was rolling through my head as I chose Cristalle, so thank you for having broached the topic. best, jtd

    • What amazing synchronicity, and I love the idea that Cristalle makes you feel as if you were ‘approaching and leaving simultaneously’: a fascinating idea.

      I hope that your husband makes a complete recovery.

  5. Your post and all the replies have said it all. Now I am going to spritz on some Cristalle and go to bed.

  6. I adore Cristalle and feel secretly glad it gets overlooked by the mass market consumers. It was my signature scent for around twenty years and although i am more promiscuous with scent now, I will never be without a bottle of Cristalle. I can’t imagine anyone not loving its icy understated greenery. Great review.

  7. emmawoolf

    Hurrah for wonderful Cristalle: thank you for featuring. I will also never be without a bottle, but I reserve mine for the summer months only. Not quite warm enough here yet to come out of Jardins de Bagatelle mode, but it will be soon. And I’m still a fan of the in my opinion warmer and somehow juicer edp version – I have an old advertisement postcard, featuring a tres jeune Claudia Schiffer. Also they still made the array of bath products that were once available. Lovely. Bring it on

    • Naturally I think of you whenever Cristalle comes up…

      • emmawoolf

        ah, how lovely. xx the feeling is mutual. You once persuaded me to buy a bottle with my last £30 exactly 20 years ago, when I was utterly broke, despondent, and living in, your words “the love graveyard”, aka Watford. I have never looked back!

      • Did I literally grind you into poverty with Chanel? I love it : perhaps it acted as some beautiful force field against banality and despair, elevating one above the grimness.

        We really were all quite lacking in hope at that time. What do you remember me wearing ?

  8. Lilybelle

    Brielle, I didn’t knew there’d been a Cristalle extrait either. How interesting, and also interesting what you have to say about working backward from an eau to a parfum. That is strange to consider. I had a bottle of Cristalle years and years ago (the edt). I loved its crisp elegance, refreshing yet very feminine – they got it 1000% right – but I moved on to other fragrances, never to return to Cristalle. I’m fond of it anyway. And I read somewhere years ago that Juliette Binoche, my girl crush, wore it. I often think I should get another bottle, but I never seem to go out of my way to do so. And, it wouldn’t be the same.

  9. I *adore* Cristalle EdT. I picked it up a couple of days ago- just to sniff it. The absolutely *bitter* start kills me- like biting into a peach covered not in fuzz but in pith laced thick lemon rind! The EdP is a little too *real* for me. As if I were really biting into said peach instead of seeing someone else biting into one through the window of their apartment and just having the summer breeze blow the smell of it my way. It is such an urban smell despite all the rustic green/honeysuckle nuances. Another impression that somehow lodged itself into my head is of sitting by Bathesda fountain in Central Park, New York on a summer afternoon (as a woman) in a simple, pure white dress. I have never been a woman or worn a pure white dress- but for some reason, it feels like I could/should/ought-to.

  10. Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:


    • jennyredhen

      I dont believe it will actually happen. or will happen in name only.. thats my opinion piece for the day Ha Ha.

  11. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    As an already reluctant member of “Europe”, since the Euro-disaster, I am not at all charmed by their stupid bulldozering all over the little entrepreneurs and home-made initiatives. As much as I do love the British and American language and culture ( and there is a huge difference) , i simply cannot bear the anglodiet, served by all shops and communities here in Holland. Simply awful, nothing to do with For heavens sake even one tiny, encouraging, michelinesque star!!! No enchantment, not even bewitchment, let alone spell(bound). Only a very clumsy, economically strangled, poor watery substance of what should not even be considered as language or culture, not to speak of the muck they make of economics. It is a gateway for the already bloodgorged and with lifejuice saturated Internationals; and not at all comme il faut for the simple, daily life and simple, exquisite in their own value, enjoyment that I crave and am missing daily. Sorry to sound Like a doomed prophet. There is a difference between feeling a European and putting your existence on the line. Number one is fine with me, but for heavens sake, let it stay in the individual, dreamy and free breathing space. Number two is anathema to me. The economical europaean stranglehold, based on very shady capitalist economics, is not at all the cats pyama’s….
    I simply love seeing and feeling many facets and Eenheidsworst, Universal Sausage, not even good enough for dogs, let alone for cats, bless their choosey, individual, diva hearts!

  12. emmawoolf

    Perhaps in a subconscious effort to “rise above the grimness”, as you wrote to me several years ago, I’ve worn nothing else but this for the past six months (with the occasional foray into Eau du Soir, on the even more occasional night out). The EDP has been discontinued in the UK (bloody typical, we never did have any taste) but I saw a lone bottle in Boots recently when my old bottle ran out, and swiped it. It’s no longer a summer perfume but year-round essential armour. Perfect for the classroom and for the weekend. I love it xx

  13. emmawoolf

    By the way, I read a description of Cristalle as smelling a little like a glass of dry white wine. And then …someone has a quick fag to hide the fact that they’ve been drinking it. I totally get that description (do you?)

  14. emmawoolf

    Which I drank last night, with the house all too myself for months, while binge watching I May Destroy You. x

  15. emmawoolf

    Which is quite extraordinary, and I recommend (even though I’m not sure I like it).

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